A critical portion of Government’s efforts to reform state enterprises will be done through the introduction of legislation, Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler has disclosed.
He said this strategy was being employed to tackle the longstanding issue of deficiencies in the financial management procedures and practices of the Government entities.
Speaking in Parliament today as he led debate on the Barbados Sustainable Recovery Plan (BSRP) and the 2018-19 Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure, Sinckler said the new legislation currently being drafted, would “govern the financial affairs of Government statutory boards and enterprises”.
Over the years the Auditor General and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Barbados have been calling for audited financial statements of various state owned enterprises to be brought up to date, timely reporting and internal audits.
In his presentation today, Sinckler said Government had heard the cries and had finally decided that it was time to “bring some level of order” by way of legislation.
The minister said the absence of an Act was identified as a major challenge with statutory boards when it came to reporting, financial management, expenditure and audits.
In this regard he said priority would be given to “the regularization of the financial reporting and debt management of state owned enterprises” while seeking to improve efficiencies within those organizations through legislation.
“That Act, I can say, is at an advanced stage of drafting. The CPC [Chief Parliamentary Council] has returned the draft Bill to the ministry and some of the other departments for final comments, and those comments are being prepared and that Bill will be laid very early in the next financial year.
“It will see new levels of responsibilities and expectations from state owned enterprises, not just relative to the Act of Parliament who created them but by special rules, because as you know the Central Government has the Financial Management and Audit (Financial) Rules Act 2011 that governs Central Government departments. Statutory boards do not have an overall Act that governs their financial operations,” he said.
Sinckler also said he was in possession of a new International Monetary Fund (IMF) report entitled Promoting Fiscal Sustainability and Transparency of State Owned Entities, which he said was prepared by the fiscal affairs department of the IMF, through the Caribbean Regional Technical Assistance Centre at the request of the Freundel Stuart administration.
Stopping short of giving details of the findings or the recommendations in the document, Sinckler said following a recent technical mission to examine the state owned enterprises here, “advice and recommendations were given on areas we may want to address going forward”.
“I am happy to report that the mission came, they had a pretty successful mission, there was full cooperation from all involved including the statutory entities, and a final report has been issued to the Government of Barbados, which we will make available to all members of this Chamber and others in the Barbados population who may be interested in that once Cabinet has approved for that to be done,” he said.
Stating that the document made for “very interesting reading”, Sinckler said he did not necessarily agree with everything contained in it.
In any event, he said it pointed to many of the challenges facing the state owned enterprises, while making the point that those challenges were not insurmountable or unique to Barbados.